'We want the best players to play for England- if they're not in the Prem, they're not able to'
England Rugby appear to be on the brink of entering a new era with hybrid contracts and with that comes a lot of uncertainty, but Owen Farrell believes the players should focus on what goes on on the pitch.
As far as the fly-half is concerned, his job is to play rugby and he puts his trust in those in the background being able to thrash out a deal that is in the players’ best interests. While the 112-cap England international concedes that the players have an idea of what they want, the players are not the ones who are working out the details of these potential new deals.
Just weeks after captaining England to a bronze medal a the Rugby World Cup, where the current situation would have no doubt been discussed amongst the squad, Farrell stressed that the players will have an input in the proceedings. Players are no longer “scared” of saying what they think, according to Farrell, as we wait to see what unfolds over the coming weeks and months.
The 32-year-old is set to miss the upcoming Six Nations after deciding to step away from international rugby to prioritise his mental health. Nevertheless, he is one player who has been linked with a central RFU contract. But for now Farrell’s focus seems to be on Saracens as they begin their Investec Champions Cup campaign this weekend.
“I think as players, you have ideas,” he said at the launch of the new Champions Cup season at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium recently.
“You’d think and you obviously hope that there’s lot of work going on in the background that works a lot of things out that you don’t quite understand. I think, as a player, we come back and we get straight back into playing. We don’t sit there and work out a programme best built for us going forward.
“I think the players now are not scared of giving their opinion. They’re not scared of saying what they think. So I think going forward this is now an interesting time in terms of [hybrid contracts], but I’m sure the players will have an input.”
England has seen the gradual trickle of players moving to the Top 14 pick up more and more momentum over the last year, influenced heavily by the decline of Worcester Warriors, Wasps and London Irish.
While Racing 92’s Henry Arundell is still eligible to play for England due to ‘special circumstances’ after London Irish went bust last season, other players in the league such as Stade Francais’ Joe Marchant, Toulon’s David Ribbans and Toulouse’s Jack Willis (after he signed a new deal at Toulouse) are not. With some of the biggest English starts in the Gallagher Premiership being linked with moves to France, the idea of a version of the ‘Giteau Law’ is being bandied about. Farrell was fairly forthright with his view on any changes to the England eligibility criteria.
He said: “We want the best players to play for England, and if they’re not in the Prem at the moment they’re not able to play for England. That’s as simple an answer as can be.”